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Hinge Cutting Trees for Deer: Benefits, Best Species & Tips

Hinge Cutting Trees for Deer: Benefits, Best Species & Tips

If you are passionate about hunting or enjoy observing wildlife in their natural habitat, hinge cutting can have a great influence.

By changing the landscape of a certain area, the manipulated space can attract more wildlife and offer a greater opportunity for nature lovers and hunters alike to have a better experience. 

What is a hinge cut? A hinge cut refers to the practice of partially cutting a tree then pushing it over where it continues to grow horizontally. This creates a natural habitat for wildlife and produces screen covers and natural fences to prevent some game animals from entering a certain area or escaping from it. 

Hinge cutting has different techniques that each create a different landscape that serves a specific purpose.

Hinge cutting varies widely depending on the landscape, purpose, and type of tree you’re trying to hinge cut. Read on to find out all about this technique that is gaining popularity by the day.

Purpose of Hinge Cutting

In general, hinge cutting serves three purposes. We can sum them up as follows:

  • Food: A tree growing horizontally provides an easy-to-reach source of food for small animals that cannot reach the leaves and twigs of an upright tree. 
  • Cover: The natural screen cover that a hinge cut tree makes attracts wildlife to the newly formed landscape. This helps create a teeming ecosystem and transforms the area.
  • Hunting: Hunters will benefit from the many game animals taking cover in the area. The movement of animals can be directed somewhat, which makes the hunting experience more successful.

Why Do Deer Like Hinge-Cut Trees?

Of all wildlife, deer, in particular, seem to like hinge-cut trees the most. For one thing, half-fallen trees allow small vegetation and saplings to grow and thrive.

At the same time, the hinge-cut tree itself is very much alive and growing. Its leaves, fruits, and young shoots are conveniently handy for the deer to reach.

Additionally, the notoriously shy deer can find cover behind the trees and hide between the branches. 

What Wildlife Likes Hinge-Cut Trees?

Most small wildlife would be attracted to an area where one or more hinge-cut trees dot the landscape. Deer are at the top of the list of animals that like hinge-cut trees.

These trees are a good natural cover as well as a sustainable source of food. Rabbits also build their nests near these trees and hide whenever they sense danger.

The same applies to squirrels and even quails and turkeys. The improved landscape offers better nesting opportunities for them.

Best Trees for Hinge Cutting

As a general rule of thumb, evergreen trees are the best candidates to hinge cut. Their lush foliage is ideal as a natural screen cover all year round.

The leaves and branches will provide a sustainable food source and nesting grounds for many species of wildlife.

I recommend redbuds, cedars, wild cherries, some maple species, shagbark hickory, and sassafras as good species to hinge cut as they produce amazing landscaping results.

Can You Hinge Cut Pine Trees?

Although you can hinge cut pine trees, they’re not the right type of tree to create a lasting landscape.

For starters, the pine trunk is quick to rot, which leads to the demise of the tree faster than the time it takes for an ecosystem to develop. 

Can You Hinge Cut Poplar Trees?

Poplar trees are softwood trees, which makes them less of an ideal choice for hinge cutting. These trees tend to snap while you cut through the trunk.

Moreover, the trees can become a potential hazard as they fall, which could lead to accidents. So you should never try to hinge cut a poplar tree.

Can You Hinge Cut Maple Trees?

Most maple species are good candidates for hinge cutting. However, maples tend to snap if you take the saw to them at the wrong time.

Wintertime is not a recommended time to hinge cut your maple.

Instead, wait for the spring when the maples have leafed out. Then cut halfway through the tree, and let the wind bring it down without snapping.

Are Beech Trees Good To Hinge Cut?

You can hinge cut beech trees, although they don’t have as high a survival rate as other trees, such as cedars and sassafras.

If you have many beech trees, hinge cut them in waves. When they die, you can hinge cut a few more to keep the new landscape teeming with wildlife.

Can You Hinge Cut Cedar Trees?

Cedar trees are an excellent species to hinge cut. However, to avoid them snapping during the process and ensure they stay alive for a long time, make sure they land on another hinge-cut tree.

This horizontal tree will break the fall of the cedar and prevent it from snapping. 

Can You Hinge Cut Oak Trees?

The short answer to this is DON’T. Leaving a wounded oak, especially if it belongs to the red oak family, is an open invitation for oak wilt to spread.

It will not only affect the hinge-cut oak but all other oaks standing upright in the area. 

Can You Hinge Cut Elm Trees?

Elm trees are not some of the best tree species to hinge cut. They don’t have a high survival rate. Additionally, they offer little cover and food opportunities for deer, rabbits, or fowl. 

Can You Hinge Cut Ironwood Trees?

Hinge-cut ironwood trees have a great advantage over other trees. They tend to sprout shoots quickly and in abundance.

So even though they won’t last long, the hinge-cut ironwood offers plenty of food for wildlife while it’s alive.

Can You Hinge Cut Aspen Trees?

Aspen trees are quite tricky to hinge cut. They don’t fall easily, and when they do, they won’t stay down. So the best way to keep them lying horizontally is to tie them down. 

How Long Will a Hinge-Cut Tree Live?

Most hinge-cut trees will survive for up to 4 to 6 years. However, they have to be cut down properly and in the right conditions to survive that long.

Some trees, such as maples, will survive better if hinge cut after they have leafed out. Cedars, on the other hand, need to fall on another hinge-cut tree. Meanwhile, aspens need to be tied down to stay down.

How Tall Should a Tree Be for a Hinge Cut?

The ideal height of the tree before hinge cutting depends on its species.

Some trees, including maples, will have a better chance of survival if they’re hinge cut when young and before they reach maturity. 

What Is the Best Time of Year To Hinge Cut Trees?

Trees differ when it comes to the best time of year to hinge cutting them. For the most part, winter is a good time to hinge cut most trees.

Maples are among the few exceptions to this rule. They don’t fall off easily even after cutting through 75% of the tree trunk.

You’ll need the tree to have decent foliage and wait for the wind to bring it down without snapping. So springtime is the best time to hinge cut these types of trees.

Can You Hinge Cut in the Summer?

Most trees become heavy in the summer due to being laden with full foliage, flowers, growing branches, and even fruits.

Hinge cutting a heavy tree in the summer, no matter the species, is a recipe for killing it. The tree trunk will snap under the weight of the heavy canopy, killing it instantly.

You should wait until late winter or early spring when the tree foliage isn’t fully developed.

Tree Hinge Cutting Tool

One of the best tools to hinge-cut a tree is Habitat Hook. It has an extendable design that allows it to extend up to 13 feet, giving you better leverage over the tree.

It also has three length settings to make it easier to hinge cut tree trunks of different diameters and species.

Where Do You Make a Hinge Cut?

The ideal height to make a hinge cut on the trunk of the tree is between the knee and waist. Some experts recommend hip-high as the ideal height to make the cut.

At this height, the tree will provide good coverage for large animals such as deer. It also allows sunlight and fresh air to penetrate the underside of the fallen tree and keep it growing for years.

How Deep Should a Hinge Cut Be?

You should make a deep cut through two-thirds to three-quarters of the trunk to cause the trunk to fall without snapping.

If you cut more than 75% of the trunk, the tree will snap. If you cut less than 66%, the trunk will stay stubbornly upright.

How Big Should a Hinge Cut Bedding Area Be?

The bedding area for hinge-cut trees should be between a quarter to a half-acre. 

Safety Guidelines for Hinge Cutting Trees

  • Always wear protective gear before hinge cutting a tree.
  • Use the proper tools and equipment.
  • Make sure the tree doesn’t accidentally fall on and damage property.
  • Start your hinge cutting bright and early. It might take longer than you expect.

How To Hinge Cut a Tree

  1. Make sure that you have the right tools and you’re following the safety guidelines before you start.
  2. Select a tree with a diameter between 3 to 8 inches. Make a mark around hip-high.
  3. Start cutting slowly and without hesitation. Keep going in the same direction, and avoid going around the trunk with your saw. That would damage the tree.
  4. When you have cut about 66% of the trunk, give it a push and see if the tree will fall. 
  5. If the tree doesn’t fall, keep cutting in the same direction until you’ve cut through 75% of the trunk.
  6. Push the tree with both hands until it falls.


Hinge cutting a tree can transform the landscape and create a cover area for wildlife. As the tree continues to grow, it will also provide animals and birds with a source of food and nesting ground.